After reading about the following case, I know that it is going to elicit emotional responses from many different quarters with many different agendas. While I support the right of all citizens to protect their homes and their lives what occurred in this case does appear to support that doctrine. There were numerous forces at work that day in this neighborhood that all came to a head in the fatal shooting of two men. The case revolves around Joe Horn, a 61 year old retiree who happened to witness the burglary of a neighbor’s house. Mr. Horn did the neighborly thing and contacted 911 to report the crime in progress. So far so good, neighborhood watch is working. However, it is at this point where the story takes a tragic and bizarre twist.
“O.K.,” Mr. Horn said. “But I have a right to protect myself too, sir,” adding, “The laws have been changed in this country since September the first, and you know it.”
The operator said, “You’re going to get yourself shot.” But Mr. Horn replied, “You want to make a bet? I’m going to kill them.”
Moments later he said, “Well here it goes, buddy. You hear the shotgun clicking and I’m going.”
This is part of the exchange between Mr. Horn and the 911 operator. During the call the operator continually instructed Mr. Horn to stay in the house and let the police who were enroute handle the situation. As you can see from the exchange Mr. Horn had gone and retrieved his shotgun and was dead set on confronting the would be burglars. Before expounding on the larger issues raised by this tragedy and yes it is a tragedy because two men lost their lives, I want to touch on the two things that trouble me the most about this incident. Were they illegal aliens? Yes. Were the criminals? Yes, but two men still lost their lives that day over some stuff and that is a tragedy.
The first thing that stands out to me is in the second line of the above exchange. Mr. Horn explicitly states that he is not going to stop them, he is not going to shoot them, but that he is going to “kill them”. To me this implies intent on the part of the “so-called” hero in this story. It appears that Mr. Horn had determined for whatever reason that he was going to not only have to intervene, but that he would have to slay the criminals. Based on his own words, he had come to the conclusion that these two men deserved to die by his hands. It is one thing to have to kill someone while defending one’s own life, family, or even property; but to leave the safety of your own home to confront criminals at a neighbor’s home, who were not home at the time nor in any danger, in my opinion crosses the line.
Captain Corbett said that a plainclothes officer had pulled up just in time to see Mr. Horn pointing his shotgun at both men across his front yard, that Mr. Ortiz had at one point started to run in a way that took him closer to Mr. Horn, and that both men “received gunfire from the rear.”
That fact, alone, however, was not necessarily conclusive, Captain Corbett said. “It tells an investigator something, but not everything,” he added. “They could still have been seen as a threat.”
The second and most damaging to me against any argument of home owner’s rights is the report that the burglars were shot in the back. The case is being spun as a justifiable homicide case, but having the victims shot in the back has got to (pardon the pun) blow holes in that defense. I will be curious to see how it will be demonstrated that two suspects with their backs turned or maybe even fleeing from the shooter could have been a threat. If you put the two together it seems that Mr. Horn decided that he was going to go and kill a couple of ni**ers that day, legally. It should be noted that Mr. Horn was white and even though his victims were illegal immigrants from Columbia, he misidentified them during the 911 call as black. So, in his mind at the time he was confronting two black men.
This story encapsulates the current state of America on so many levels. There is the right to bear arms, the right of citizens to protect their homes, crime, fear, illegal immigrants, race, the role of the media, and the criminal justice system. Anyone searching for a case that has all the current hot button issues couldn’t find a better one than this if they had written it themselves. This one has something for everybody and I am sure it will bring out the fanatics on all sides. But the question now becomes what went wrong here and why? It would be easy to chalk it up to another frustrated white man who saw his chance to kill a couple of blacks and get away with it, but is it that simple?
I for one don’t think so. Of course Mr. Horn’s prejudice played a role in this and anyone who says it didn’t is either a liar or a fool and both are dangerous. But there are larger forces at work and these to me are more sinister. These are the forces that allow Mr. Horn’s prejudice to be played out in this scenario. What usually fails to get mentioned in the right to bear arms argument is that fact that this “so-called” right comes with responsibility. Just because a person can purchase a gun doesn’t mean they should have a gun. I am not talking about the certifiable nut that shoots up malls or schools, I am also talking about the average Joe who watches too much “COPS”, local news broadcasts, or 24. All of which are designed to heighten the fear of the public and increase the level of paranoia and bravado. But of course any talk about responsible gun ownership is immediately shouted down by the gun lobby and the NRA, because to them any concession to complete freedom of guns is considered sacrosanct. This man had no reason to be doing what he did, he was not a trained professional. If he were a policeman who shot two suspects in the back he would still have to answer for his crime. How anyone can justify an armed citizenry performing police work without training is beyond me.
Then there is the media that feeds the fear and paranoia of its viewers, the worst of which is local news. In their drive to get ratings these broadcasts are filled with either murder and mayhem or misleading stories. If one were to watch and believe the local news broadcasts one would believe the home invasions are happening on every block almost every hour, carjacking is rampant, and all violent criminals are minorities, preferably black. These broadcasts cater to the most sleazy and lowest common denominator. They seemed designed to only reinforce already engrained prejudices and stereotypes.
Then of course, there is the tone of political discourse today. With potential candidates for the highest office discussing torture, locking down the borders, and the mass expulsion of immigrants it is no wonder the public is frustrated and wanting to take matters into their own hands. Rather than providing leadership, today’s candidates are merely pandering to the worst elements of our society. For some reason those who harbor the fanatical views are more politically active and therefore receive the bulk of the attention.
Whenever you have an atmosphere charged by racism, guns, and vigilantly justice, incidents like these are bound to happen. I am very interested in seeing how this one plays out in the criminal justice system. The political agendas are being served; I only hope that justice is served. Regardless of what you think of those two men, none deserves to be gunned down in the back for a burglary. Mr. Horn seems to have come to the conclusion that in this case he was the “decider” of guilt, sentence, and execution.